When you’re planning your next vacation overseas, it’s easiest to pick a country that resembles yours, whether it’s a country that speaks English or one that has familiar Western customs. If you want to break out of your comfort zone and explore something different, consider taking a trip to northern Africa and the ancient city of Marrakesh, Morocco.
Explore the medina
You can’t come to Marrakesh and not see its famed medina. The name refers to the oldest parts of the city that are contained by ancient walls. Conde Nast Traveler explains that the fortifications are made of beaten red clay, hence Marrakesh’s “Red City” nickname. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, the medina is full of traditional Arab souks, or markets, organized based on what they sell. From antiques to olives to brass lanterns, there is plenty to see — and buy — in the medina.
If you’re more about soaking in beautiful scenery, the medina is also home to traditional Arab architecture, such as keyhole arches that lead you through the tight city streets. You might even stumble upon one of the many beautiful mosaics bearing colors and patterns influenced by African and Islamic artistic traditions. Be aware that these streets can be tough to navigate, so delve into the labyrinth when you have time to get lost and appreciate what you find.
Relax like royalty
When you want to escape the busy world of the ancient city, consider stopping at one of the city’s many riads, which are homes organized around central courtyards and gardens. Several of these homes are now hotels or other getaways for locals and tourists. For example, Le Jardin Secret is one of the largest riads in the city, and it is now open to the public as a museum with two large gardens, a high tower and cafes in which to enjoy a refreshing meal.
Meet the Sahara
The city of Marrakesh has enough highlights to keep you occupied, but if you have time you should consider heading out of the city to see the mighty Sahara Desert. Adventure blogger Anna Karsten of Anna Everywhere says that most tour vendors offer two- or three-day excursions into the desert, but for the best experience, you should choose the three-day option. Most tours stop in Ouarzazate, a gateway city to the desert, but many three-day tours make it out to the famed Erg Chebbi, a dune sea.
Reconsider your wardrobe
The name Yves Saint Laurent probably makes you think of the high fashion of Paris, but the man himself was actually born in Algeria, another North African country. Marrakech is a popular travel destination for the French. Yves Saint Laurent followed the trend and bought a villa here as a retreat in which to work on his collections. When he died in 2008, his partner scattered his ashes in the city. To honor the designer, the brand bearing his name opened Musee Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, a counterpart to its Paris museum. It displays his couture designs alongside rare books and traveling exhibitions.
Traveling to Marrakesh, Morocco, is probably outside of your typical travel destinations, but this city’s many wondrous highlights make it the perfect place to let your spirit of adventure run free.
This article is presented by Gault Auto Sport BMW in ENDICOTT, New York.